Friday, July 30, 2010

Color of a Hungry Shadow


Color of a Hungry Shadow

for C.M.

The man asked, "What color is a hungry
shadow?"--intending to leave it at that,
a question. I answered, "Green." What
color is the sound of people turning
away, as if you were a frayed edge
of something cheap? Some in that crowd
once rejected me personally. That's

about as intimate as failure gets.
"Gray." See them now congealed
into a sluggish coil, gray raincoats
on their backs. They walk away back
to their task of arbitration. They

determine who among us shall be
heard, and they never listen: that's
the way it works. Kafka smelled
their souls. Dickinson ignored them,
returning cold fire. What's the color
of succeeding on your own terms?
Name it. You get to name it.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"Force of Nature," performed by Joe Vaughn, Jr.

Celebrity Author

Celebrity Author

I think I know what the celebrity-author was
thinking: Get me out of here. He wore
fame like a hair-shirt. The thing is, the money
is great, adulation's like liquor, and it's nice
to be thought a genius. So there he was, and
there we were. . . .

He squirms and fidgets. He goes on too long
and comments on his commenting like a daft
monarch. He doesn't like other people's wit
because it shows everybody's witty and fame
is as arbitrary than not. Of course,

we'd all trade places with him in the Land
of Hypothetica, especially because we'll never
have to. He won the lottery, he's a good writer,
and there's a wider justice in his fame. Still,

he itches and scratches, poses and opines,
tries to say shocking things, grins guiltily,
reminds us of his fame and wit and money
at paced intervals, and suspects what he
knows to be true: that we, too, can't wait
for the evening to be over.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Schools of Poetry

I'm indebted to Carter Monroe for re-engaging me in an ongoing debate among poets--namely, why the so-called School of Quietude, dubbed so by Ron Silliman, won't acknowledge its own existence or its own tacit (so to not speak) dominance, still, of American poetry. A waggish answer: because it's quiet. Shhhh!

I'm further indebted to Seth Abramson for finally identifying Silliman's question as bait (my word, not Abramson's) and cheerfully taking the bait, partly, I sense, so that others wouldn't have to do so, having better things to do. Actually, I think Silliman's question is more fair than the sarcasm in the last sentence suggested. At any rate, here is part of Abramson's answer:

The belief, as exhibited in and by certain contemporary poems, that the near-totality of words in an individual poem should be employed in such a way as to utilize exclusively their transcendent rather than immanent meaning. To the extent this proclivity, as to word usage, commonly generates a poem whose individual on-the-page "marks" constitute merely an "echo" of the visualizable universe of matter the poem evokes, the actual words of the poem may be considered Quiet. They are Quiet in the sense that they are not permitted their full expression as "words-qua-words," but instead remain merely signifiers of a series of referents whose acknowledgment, comprehension, and internalization is the most important work of the poem.

And it's a good answer, one that follows the assertion that what Silliman calls the School of Quietude is really a family, not a genus or a species; a big tent, in other words.

Abramson also takes pains to establish his bona fides. I guess I should, too: publishing poetry in magazines since @1978, some prizes (whatever), Ph.D. in English literature (British romantics, with an exam area in Modern British and American poetry); have taught poetry-writing and poetry as literature since 1980; have written articles and books about poets and poetry; have co-written a textbook on writing poetry and fiction; have also published fiction. Yadda yadda.

To Abramson's apt definition above--which emphasizes language as a referential medium (roll over, Jacques) and thus its image-making quality, I would add that it is still a sound-making medium--lyric, that is. Too quietly for Silliman's tastes, apparently, but I'd still argue that the spine of Anglo-North-American poetry is in the "lyre," and that in this regard Auden is the dominant influence, even for people who haven't heard of him.

That is, I don't think this is an either/or question: quietude vs. noise. It is both/and, as is often the case in debates. Maybe the debate is about volume, the kind of argument that takes place in automobiles: "Turn down the bass!"

I do get what Abramson is asserting, and I do get Silliman's point that a certain way of writing squats at the center of American poetry and dominates the poetic/literary establishment: Folks from the Black Arts Movement made this point almost five decades ago.

Finally, I think it must be said that such a squabble, to the rest of the world, must sound like A Little Gnat Music, as it does even to many of us inside the family of poetry (not the taxonomical family to which Abramson refers).

As Carter Monroe has noted, "Schools" of poetry usually arise, like ghosts, after the body is buried (my analogy, not his); they are named after the fact. This reminds me of when I published my only detective novel. I was reading a review of it, and the reviewer called my novel a "procedural." I turned to my wife and said, "Honey, I wrote a procedural!" Who knew? It was a procedural because the detective was a county sheriff, thus a "police-person," a civic, not private, pro; and thus the novel, to some degree, followed his "procedure" for solving the crime. By the way, many poets, including Auden, are attracted to detective fiction because of the stricture of form and the opportunity to bend them. It's like messing with the sonnet form.

And/or, I would add, they take on far greater cache, prestige, and leverage after the fact, so much so that the young writers of this or that generation desperately yearn to be Imagists, Modernists, Black Mountain Schoolchildren, Beats, New York Schoolchildren, and so son. These schools generate what passes for glamor in the sad wee world of poetry. And what Silliman calls the S of Q seems to own a lot of the glamor still, if the Poet Laureate position generates glamor. I do wish someone would appoint Silliman.

Luckily, I grew up in the High Sierra in a town of 200, went to school in the West, have lived and taught in the West--although I have gotten around, teaching in Sweden and Germany. This squabble does carry a whiff of one more argument from East of the Mississippi; --although, again, I will take pains to acknowledge that Silliman asks some fair questions and that Abramson goes out of his way to provide a fair answer--more than fair: enlightening. Such dust-ups are good for the system of poetry; maybe. But mainly, poets should not go out of their way, if their way is to write poetry. What you want to be doing if you are a writer is to be writing the main thing you write, not writing about Schools. School is out.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

["Well, Spring overflows the land"], by Lorine Niedecker]

Top 100 Country Hits

Okay, so I made a list of what I thought are the top 100 Country hits of "all time." Allegedly Johnny Cash made such a list for his daughter, Roseanne, but it was never published.

Let's assume a few things: Assuming you're interested in the list, you're going to disagree vehemently with some choices and absences, so I'll apologize in advance. Second, the boundaries are pretty loose, so I've no doubt included songs that might fit better in "Folk," "Pop," or "Rock," but not that many. Third, there are some artists I just don't like who have nonetheless earned a spot on such a list, but I left them out. Fourth, go ahead and make your own list and set me right. That will show me. I didn't want to rank them, so I alphabetized them. --Oh, and I probably miscounted. Anyway:

Act Naturally
All My Ex’s Live In Texas
Am I The Only One
Amarillo By Morning
Battle of New Orleans
Before The Next Teardrop Falls
Behind Closed Doors
Better Man
Bloodshot Eyes
Blue Eyes Cryin’ In the Rain
Blue Moon of Kenucky
Coat of Many Colors
Cool Water
Country Roads
Crazy Arms
Faded Love
Fireman, The
Flowers on the Wall
Folsom Prison Blues
Forever and Ever Amen
Four Strong Winds
Friends In Low Places
Gentle On My Mind
Get Rhythm
Ghost Riders In The Sky
Golden Ring
Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues
Harper Valley PTA
He Stopped Loving Her Today
Hello Darlin’
Hello Walls
Help Me Make It Through The Night
Hey Good Lookin’
Honky Talk Angels
Honky Tonk Man
I Believe In You
I Can’t Stop Loving You
I Fall To Pieces
I Hope You Dance
I Never Promised You A Rose Garden
I Walk The Line
I’m Movin’ On
I’m Down To My Last Cigarette
I’m Gonna Miss Her
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
I’ve Been Everywhere
Keep On The Sunny Side
King of the Road
Kiss An Angel Good Morning
Lily’s White Lies
Long Black Veil
Lookin’ For Love in All the Wrong Places
Luckenbach Texas
Make The World Go Away
Making Believe
Mama Tried
Man of Constant Sorrow
Mom and Dad’s Waltz
Neon Moon
North To Alaska
Ode To Billie Joe
On the Road Again
Once A Day
Orange Blossom Special
Polk Salad Annie
Rank Strangers
Ring of Fire
Rose-Colored Glasses
San Antonio Rose
Seven Year Ache
Silver Threads and Golden Needles
Sixteen Tons
Smoky Mountain Rain
Stand By Your Man
Streets of El Paso
Sunday Morning Comin’ Down
Take An Old Cold Tater And Wait
Take This Job and Shove It
Tennessee Waltz
Tennessee Stud, The
The Likes of Me
Tiger By The Tail
Today I Started Loving You Again
Tom Dooley
Travelin Soldier
Tumbling Tumbleweeds
Wabash Cannon Ball
Walkin’ The Floor Over You
Walking After Midnight
Waltz Across Texas
When I Stop Dreaming
Wildwood Flower
Will The Circle Be Unbroken
You Ain’t Woman Enough
You Are My Sunshine
Your Cheatin’ Heart

"The Naked and the Nude," by Robert Graves

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portugues XXVI [I lived wit...

"Lady of the Dew," by Tim Lulofs

"A Thanksgiving," by W.H. Auden

"Song for Billie Holiday," by Langston Hughes

709 [Publication -- is the Auction] by Emily Dickinson

"Sigmund Freud and Babe Ruth in Heaven" by Hans Ostrom

Truly, Madly, Cellularly

Truly, Madly, Cellularly

Via mobile telephones they trysted.
Their words raptured, caromed off
corporate satellites, descended bundled
in spongy static. Some sluiced through

optic fibers. Why not face to face?
Unmanageable: The lovers worried words
might disappear into Society so harried, sloppy,
huge. Words cleansed in space and digitized

might be exchanged like polished stones.
Sighs and whispers might be chastened.
The two did broadcast their love, but only to
the other; and were charged by the minute.

Copyright 2010

Broken Guitar

Broken Guitar

A man broke a guitar over--that is to say, on--another man's head.

The guitar-strings sounded the last chord the guitar would ever play. The surprised O of the guitar expressed this final chord, then disintegrated when wood splintered.

On the floor, the smashed instrument looked like a miniature shipwreck in an extremely small production of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

People gathered round the injured man like a chorus of bees. They murmured, turning away from the other man.

The man who'd used a musical instrument as a weapon sagged with self-hatred and remorse.

A woman entered the room. She said, "Hey, that's my guitar!"

The man who had been struck by the guitar looked deeply perplexed by recent events. His head bled, and the wound looked like a wet, red petal. “O,” he said, for life had strummed him.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Found Poem

Found Poem: Your Search


Your search - poets women like -
did not match any documents. Reset
search tools. Suggestions:
* Make sure all words are
spelled correctly. * Try different
keywords. * Try more general keywords.
* Try fewer keywords.


Alas, the search tools
are not mine. They belong
to cybergnostic corporations.
All the words were spelled
correctly, poets women like.
Different keywords might
garner answers I don't seek:
scissors tailors hate.
Keyword Montgomery, Keyword
Patreus, Keyword Eisenhower,
Keyword Patton. Fewer key-
words: poets women; poets;
women; poets like; women like;
like; women.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Poets and Technology

This summer I've encountered some poets and others interested in poetry who are using technology extensively: Youtube, blogs, different recording technologies, facebook as a serious networking site [writers helping writers], online magazines, collaboration over great geographic distances, and so on.

So I thought I'd re-post something I wrote about a year ago in which I try to guess which poets from the past would have blogged, and which would not have done so. It would also be amusing [to me] to guess which ones would have used Youtube.

Poets who blog?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

3 Poems by Carter Monroe

A link to three poems by Carter Monroe in the journal Thunder Sandwich:


Please check out, if you've not done so yet, the "electronic journal of poetry and poetics," Mudlark, which aptly describes itself as "never in and never out of print"; some fine poetry there:


"Education," by Richard Brautigan

Here is a reading/video of Richard Brautigan's very short poem, "Education," from The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster (1968):


Friday, July 2, 2010

Tom O'Bedlam Reads Poetry

For about two years, a person with the alias Tom O'Bedlam has been reading poetry, animating the readings with images--often of the text itself--and uploading the audio/video to Youtube. His channel has now attracted over 1,600,000 views, which Youtube calls uploads. I should add that these are not "Tom's" poems but poems more or less from the canon, loosely defined. I immediately found two old favorites, "The Groundhog" and "The Fly"--for example.

I'm no expert on the overlapping micro-demographics of Blogger and Youtube, but if you found your way to this blog, you are already probably aware of Tom O'Bedlam. If by chance you're not, however, simply visit the Youtube Channel called Spoken Verse [with a space] and enjoy accessible, well produced readings of the poems, with great attention to the words themselves, but nothing overly dramatic or stagy.

You'll find old favorites and lots of surprises. And you'll find a link to a farcical story about Youtube's attempting to kick Tom off the premises, simply because he used a photo of a woman with one breast exposed in connection with a poem he read by Michael Ondaatje. Film critic Roger Ebert was drawn into the silliness, and Tom's channel was returned to good standing. I'll provide a link here to the tale as told by Ebert:

Ebert and O'Bedlam

Ebert intimates that we should be able to detect to whom the British voice belongs (an actor), so there's a bit of added "intrigue."

But Tom O'Bedlam's project is just one of those simple but splendid things made possible by mass media, which Tom is using artfully to transmit, celebrate, and, arguably, revive a non-mass-medium, poetry.

Here is Tom's own self-effacing description (from his Channel) of how he does what he does:

"I record everything sitting at my desk in my small office. The microphone I use (these days) is a Rode Podcaster plugged into a USB port. The software is either WavePad or Audacity - both free downloads. Anybody could do it."

So please do pay Tom's channel a visit, start by finding a favorite poem, and take it from there. You won't be sorry, as the advertisements like to say.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Readings of Flash-Fiction

Readings (plus short videos) of two pieces of short-short fiction, a.k.a flash-fiction: the first by

Kathleen Wakefield, "Old Man"

and the second by

Kristin Fouquet, "For Eliza"